Ladies and gentlemen. I gots the fever.
Barbecue pulled pork.
I blame it on Midwood Smokehouse, my favorite barbecue spot in town, which I frequent at LEAST once a week. I bounce back and forth between the pork cuban (authentic Cuban bread, hickory smoked pork, thinly sliced ham, Swiss cheese, and dill pickles… I die!) and the pork and brisket tacos. And when I’m lucky enough to have some meat leftover, I make barbecue pulled pork omelets the next morning.
My passion for barbecue was discovered late in life, at the ripe age of 26, at the very same time and the very same instant I discovered my soulmate of the meat variety. PORK. Thank you Charlotte, for introducing this Ohio girl to your precious piggy bounty, abundant sauces, and deep-rooted opinions on all things ‘cue.
Though it greatly annoys me when a recipes calls for two cups of “your favorite barbecue sauce,” I’ve never attempted to make my own before now. It’s something I’ve left to the professionals (aka Midwood Smokehouse, my favorite barbecue joint in town). I favor BBQ sauces that are heavy on the vinegar (that’s eastern NC style for you BBQ neophytes), but I’m also coming around to the sweeter, ketchup-based sauces. So this recipe, my first ever BBQ sauce, is a mash-up of the two, a combo that’s united with a heavy hand of Four Roses Bourbon. Bourbon and barbecue? Puh-lease.
Ballantyne’s Elwoods BBQ opened back in 2009, and the reviews were, well, not great. Things took a turn for the barbecue better this October when two brothers-in-law, Dan Anderson and Jeremy Johnson, purchased the joint. While the face of the restaurant hasn’t changed much and the menu offerings aren’t drastically different, the quality of food being served has seen substantial improvement with the arrival of the new owners and Chef Mike Theimer, previously with the Burger Co., heading up the kitchen. What’s in the past is in the past; nowadays, Elwoods is smoking their meats daily, grinding burgers in-house, and making everything they possibly can from scratch.
Think of Elwoods as a BBQ melting pot: they’ve got Carolina pulled pork covered, of course, but they’re also smoking Texas style beef brisket, St Louis ribs, chicken, and (my personal favorite) the Kansas City burnt ends. Considered a barbecue delicacy by many, some folks (especially northerners like me who aren’t akin to these little nuggets of beef) find the burnt ends crispy, tough, and dry. I can admit I previously fell into that camp, but the burnt ends at Elwoods changed my mind on the very first bite, with a juicy, chewy texture that reminded me more of pork belly than the dehydrated meat bits I’d had from other guys in town.
Over the years, I’ve developed a bad habit of eating at my desk and working straight through lunch. Bypassing a midday break means more work gets done, and, all else equal, I get to leave an hour earlier than I would otherwise. It’s a horrible, horrible thing.
Lately, in an effort to maintain my sanity and some degree of happiness, I’ve been making a conscious effort to break away from my desk every day for lunch. Most days, this means me, my salad, and my iPad huddled next to the fireplace in the back of Caribou Coffee. It’s incredibly relaxing sitting next to the heat of the fire and feeling the buzz of the city whirling by. Though, I’m quickly developing and addiction to afternoon lattes. Good thing or bad thing, I’m not sure.
This week, I also squeezed in a lunch at Pure Pizza at the 7th Street Public Market, which I capped off with a delicious latte o’ love from Not Just Coffee. (See? Addicted!!)
Friday, I met my new friend Keia (check out her blog: the Sunnyside Up) at Harvest Moon Grille. Keia and I first met via phone when she interviewed me for her Creative Loafing article on what is means to be a foodie. This was our first official lunch date, and in true Mary fashion I started our convo off by awkwardly exclaiming “So… I want to be you!” I quickly followed our laughter with an explanation that I’d love to work as a freelance food writer and attend an abundance of fun food events as she does. And now you want to be her too, am I right?